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DPD barricaded gunman calls up from last year, bulk of calls occurring since March

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Posted at 4:17 AM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 07:06:36-04

(WXYZ) — We've seen a slew of barricaded gunman calls in and around Detroit this summer and fall, many of them lasting for several hours.

According to Detroit police, the department responded to 22 barricaded gunman calls in 2019. So far this year, they've already responded to 27.

"Since March, we’ve had 19 of those incidents," said Commander Darin Szilagy with DPD's Metropolitan Division. He's one of the officers who responds to and oversees operations during such calls.

Back in mid-September, a nearly 30-hour standoff affected people living in the Brightmoor neighborhood near the Detroit-Redford border. People like William Farris, who's lived in the house next door to the barricaded gunman for nearly 30 years.

"He just moved here last year. He hadn’t been here a whole year," Farris said of the man, who turned the gun on himself after releasing two hostages.

“Right here, they ran over here and broke the concrete," Farris said of the DPD armored vehicle which parked near his back yard. He's in the process of going through paperwork to have it fixed by the city, he said.

Detroit also saw a rise in violent crime since the start of the pandemic. There's no way to know for sure if the pandemic is tied to this rise in barricaded gunman calls, however Commander Szilagy told 7 Action News it's certainly affected how officers respond to them.

In addition to all officers wearing PPE, and also providing PPE to any suspect they come in contact with, COVID-19 affects how officers set up their command post during these calls.

“Pre-pandemic we would operate out of a mobile command post in a unified command. We'd have representatives from different factions, our hostage negotiation team, our special response team, patrol. Now being in those close quarters is not just a good idea. So we find we're doing a lot of our planning, decision making outside, open air," he said.

And with winter coming, the department is making plans to use an inflatable tent with an air filtration system, so that officers have a place to work safely in the inclement weather.

Commander Szilagy said unfortunately, DPD has had a lot of experience in responding to these high pressure calls. Like the one in late July on Detroit's west side in the area of Dexter and Puritan. Negotiators were able to convince an armed man to come out of his home peacefully.

“We rely on patience, we slow down, and we try to get that suspect who’s probably having the worst day of their life, to relax a bit — talk to our negotiators and come out," Szilagy said.

Even before officers arrived on scene, they're intelligence on the suspect and the area using the department's real-time crime center.

And DPD uses a team of negotiators, not just one.

“Sometimes a suspect may not warm up to one, so we may pass them off to another trained negotiator until we get that person that that suspect feels comfortable with," the commander said. "The moment I know as a incident commander we’re starting to get there is the moment the negotiator lets me know that they’ve established trust.”

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